Transparent Writing: Why Personal Experience and Opening Yourself Up will Lead to Greatness

by Marcus Sheridan

transparent-writingThis article comes as a direct result of Monday’s post where we were able to discuss the 7 keys to writing like you talk, a skill we all seem to agree is a necessity if we’re to become great writers and bloggers. But what really surprised me about all the comments and emails that came in afterwards was the focus/debate on sharing personal experiences and opening up( or not) on one’s blog. Here are a few (of the many) quotes and thoughts I found rather interesting:

Andrey :

I have to deal with this problem. I’m in the process of figuring out what is the best way. I realize that if I start to tell my personal stories, I’ll have to tell many other stories too to be real, and that is scary. If I start, I won’t be able to stop, and who knows what people will think of that REAL ME that will emerge from the abyss.

Christina (Cash Campfire):

With that said, I admit that when I first started blogging a year or so ago, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and ended up taking the more formal approach to my writing. As a result, that blog suffered.

It was only until I was able to find my voice and read other successful blogs (so that I could get used to the blogging style) that I began to realize that getting more personal and letting the real me shine through helped my blog to grow, as my readers got to know me.

JK (Hustler’s Notebook):

With this post, I’ve created a challenge for myself– To make my blog posts more like my comments. I know that I get loose on comments – but in my own post writing – I tend to lean on the more informational side. That’s just my style in a way – but I think the incorporation of more of my personality will help take me to the next level. Believe it or not, I have a lot of life experience driven perspective that can be of impact – once I release it.

First, let me thank all of those persons that commented on the post. I thought it was one of the more interesting conversations we’ve had here on The Sales Lion as it certainly stimulated thought.

Open or Closed?: That is the Question

That’s why this follow up article had to be written. Many of you are having a debate. Is it time to open up? Do people really want to hear your life stories? Do you really want to share these personal experiences? All relevant questions. All worthy of debate.

If I were to ask you what part of my blog gets clicked the most, what would you say? C’mon, look around for a second and make a guess……

If you guessed the photos of my family on the bottom right of the page, then you sir/madam, are correct. In fact, the photos in my little gallery down there get clicked 4 times more than ANY other page on this site.

So why is this? What’s up with that? Are all of you, my dear readers, a bunch of voyeuristic freaks? ;-) Of course not. You just want to know a little more about the guy named Marcus and his story.

It’s all about Relationships

I feel no different. When I go on your blogs, one of the first things I’ll always do is visit your about page. You see, it’s all about relationships, isn’t it? You want to know if I’m the type of guy worthy of investing your time and energy (relationship). I want to know the same about you.

Let me pick on my buddy JK for a second. I love that guy. He is awesome. We all know that JK Hustle leaves unbelievable comments here and on other blog he frequents. Because he was so wonderful with his comments on here, I made it a point to find out more about the guy. When I went to his site I discovered he had a nice about page, but still, there was more to be told.

That’s when I made it a point to connect with JK. Since that time, we’ve emailed each other on quite a few occasions. He has shared with me his history and once he even sent me a photo of his family. And wow, what a beautiful family he has! JK may not have realized this, but that simple photo impacted how I saw the guy. Why? Because at that point I knew we had a lot more in common other than just the fact that we were two bloggers with a passion for self-improvement. It turns out we share similar views on spiritual matters, family matters, temporal matters, etc.

Through this process of communication, I’m now a loyal fan of JK. We have a relationship. I’ll work to help him any way I can and I know he’ll do the same for me.

In my opinion, this is what life, and the internet, is all about—building strong relationships with others. And by so doing, everyone benefits. It’s the law of reciprocity at its finest.

The Power of Personal Experience

This is also why I have such a strong testimony of the power of personal experiences and stories. Simply put, they are the highest form of writing and communication. Once a writer lets others in his or her ‘world’, a relationship of trust will be built not previously attainable. Also, in terms of general effect, stories have a major ‘sticky’ factor.

When friends and emailers contact me regarding this blog, what do you think is always a common theme? Yep, the stories. For whatever reason, many people like them. Obviously, I’m happy to hear this, but I’m more happy to know that they actually remember many of the stories found herein. Writings can be powerful and moving, but if they’re forgettable, then what’s the use?

The Greatest Example

One other example before we close. Who is the most famous communicator of all time? Give up? Here’s a clue, he lived about 2000 years ago and we tend to talk about Him quite a bit during this time of the year….

If you guessed Jesus, you’re right. No matter what your thoughts on the Man are, His teachings have been produced, read, and discussed more than any person in the history of the world. And how did He teach? Yes, that’s right, in parables. Or, should we say, stories..

The Time has Come

So is it time for you to open yourself up a little more to readers? Should you be pulling more from the experiences of your life? Well, you know my thoughts by now, but just remember that you needn’t share everything. Believe it or not, there are many facets to my life not shared here on this blog. But at the same time, I know that if life teaches me a lesson, it could very well help others. And that’s what this is all about. I want to help. I have to help. Great communication is my tool for so doing, and I’d challenge any writer who has yet to show their personal side to open up a little. Tell us your thoughts. Be as transparent as possible.

Andrey, who are you, really? We want to know. And believe it or not, I think there’s a big part of you that wants to tell. :-)

I know you’re busy with gifts and family, but if you have a second, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Is opening up for you? Just look at your comments as a little Christmas gift to that poor guy named Marcus. ;-)

A big THANKS to all of you.

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrey December 23, 2010 at

Since I’m the one without a family, I guess you will be stuck with me here. :)

For me the opposite is true — communication was never my strong skill, it was probably the weakest of all, besides math. :) So I have to develop it as soon as possible to be who I want to be. Sounds fun? It probably is as I understand how many doors that can open up. I *feel* how important it is, because I know what it feels to be very lonely. And it makes me appreciate greatly every person who understands me and is supportive of me.

Also you are right about the experiences and them making everyone unique. I can probably teach other people some things better than anyone, when I’ll overcome my obstacles.

So what do I do? Do I just go and write what’s in my head to my blog? Well, I tend to be cautious about it, many people probably are. I had (and still have, but I’m not active there) a personal blog where I am brutally honest and I really liked how it feelt. It felt awesome and like the right thing to do, it had a therapeutic effect, it was being real to the core. So I would advise other people, if they can’t express themselves fully publicly, to just write either anonymously or to their personal journal and then see how transitioning from that feels. It will help.

New blog that I started not long ago is about web design, that’s what I do and plan to do for a living (if I’ll not end up in music, which is a second option). So it should show a less personal side of me to not scare the potential clients or any “normal people”, although it would greatly benefit from me being more real. I’ll work on that. :) And I have much lesser problem being myself in the comments too, it’s just the way it is.

These are my thoughts on this it so far.
Thanks for your post and a will to help people, Marcus.
.-= Andrey´s last blog ..Theory- aesthetics- our strengths =-.

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Marcus Sheridan December 24, 2010 at

Wonderful Andrey, all of it. I’m grateful you’ve shared with all of us here what is in your heart and mind and in reality, we can all relate in our own unique way.

Keep in mind also that just because your site is ‘web design’ doesn’t mean you still can’t utilize experiences, stories, etc all the time. After all, where I make the majority of my money from The Sales Lion is…..web design. (Actually, I ‘empower non techies to crush -it on the internet and be their own webmaster’, but I digress ;-) )

One thing that I’d suggest to you is to let your talent show. Talk about other websites, what you like, what you dislike, where they went wrong,etc. Do everything you can to show that ‘yes, you do have an opinion’ and it’s a dang informed one.

Good luck on your journey Andrey. Hope you continue to stop by. You’ve added much to the conversation. :-)

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Matt December 23, 2010 at

Couldn’t agree anymore.

Most of my writings come from life experiences and experiences with my start-up. If we aren’t creating relationships from our stories with our reads – what’s the point?

Merry Christmas!
.-= Matt´s last blog ..Thanking My Team And Clients This Holiday Season =-.

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Marcus Sheridan December 24, 2010 at

Life experiences is what it’s all about Matt. And it’s awesome that you’re doing all you can to create relationships. I hope ours continues to grow this coming year and a Merry Christmas to you as well. :-)

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Jens P. Berget December 23, 2010 at

I always write about my experiences, and that’s where my blog posts comes from and the stories I tell. But usually the text is all about me, and some about my family. What I haven’t been doing is opening up my home and my family with photos (and video).

I like to tell the stories with text. That’s the way I’m personal with my readers, and sometimes I add a photo or two with me in them, but none of my family. I’m not sure why, but so far I haven’t thought about getting my family involved in my online adventure :)
.-= Jens P. Berget´s last blog ..The Marketing Feeling =-.

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Marcus Sheridan December 24, 2010 at

There is a balance to be had when talking about family. It’s not for everyone, but the results of talking about family are inarguable— People want to know more about the real ‘You’. In my case, I do it because I literally see the readers here as kinda like an extended family, and so I want them to meet mine. But again, do what makes you most comfortable.

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Stuart December 24, 2010 at

Wow Marcus, you’ve outdone yourself once again! I think it’s great that you’ve taken the time to mention these wonderful people and the comments they made earlier; I’ve been on a lot of blogs now and you are the first to do something like that, so fair play to you.

I think it was Christina who said that when she started writing, it was formal and stiff, and wasn’t really her own voice. I agree with this, as I had the same experience when I first created unlockthedoor. I was writing too formally, thinking I ‘knew’ what others wanted whereas what everyone really wants is for you to be you. Have your own voice in this world.

By the way, kudos for the section on Jk; he’s a top guy who has helped me out considerably with my website, and I think he deserves all the good recognition he gets :-)

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Marcus Sheridan December 24, 2010 at

You’re really, really kind Stuart. I’m so glad we’ve become acquainted recently and hope this continues.

It’s funny how many people do just as you and Christina did with your blog– starting informally and feeling like the blog wasn’t reaching the ‘it’ factor. Truth be told, I even suffered from this a little bit myself I think at first.

But what matters is not so much the past but where we’re headed and how to help others along the way.

JK is one of the best. I hope everyone visits that guy’s blog regularly in 2011 because he is so very passionate and genuine, really one of the best guys I’ve met through the digits of my computer….So glad he has helped you as well.

A merry Christmas to you as well Stuart. Stay great. :-)

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Matt Mansfield December 24, 2010 at

Marcus,

Right on as always!

I actually tackled this a few days ago in my blog when I wrote a fun post about my wife actually reading my blog (and liking it!).

The thing is, even though I opened-up, I did manage to tie it back to my blog’s mission in the end, so opening up had a point and that, I believe, is the key.

We all love stories and we all love getting to know other folks better, but I believe that the gratuitous use of that tactic to build relationships can be counter-productive.

I go to a blog to read what the person has to say on a subject in which I am interested. If they spend more time talking about stories from their life which do not tie into the blog’s subject, even if those stories resonate and make me feel like they are the best person ever, I will stop going to that blog after a while.

You want to build trust and relationships with your readers and by staying on topic (mostly), I believe you are building that trust. They know you write about a topic in which they are interested and so they trust you to deliver time-and-time again.

And if you open up and show your real self, all the better, but 9 times out of 10, make sure it’s relevant or that trust will be violated.

Happy holidays to you and your family!

-Matt
.-= Matt Mansfield´s last blog ..The “Christmas Online” Edition =-.

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Marcus Sheridan December 24, 2010 at

Nice points Matt! I think as long as we ‘pretty much’ bring it back to our main topics at least most of the time then we are good to go.

I like mixing it up personally. One day it’s blogging. The next it’s sales. In then a personal development subject will come by and I’ll grab it. As I’ve said before, I never really know from day to day what I’m going to write, I just hope life let’s me know when it’s ready for another ‘lesson’ to be taught.

And btw, I read that article about your wife and thought it was great! I now feel like I know the guy ‘Matt’ a little better. So props to you man!

Happy holidays to you, your wife, and your 4 wonderful kids Matt. :-)

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Samuel December 24, 2010 at

Awesome post Marcus! Its all about relationships. You need to open to people so that they can embrace you.
I do share stories on my blog at times but not always, I think I will start doing that more often :D Thanks so much bro! Happy Christmas :)

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Marcus Sheridan December 24, 2010 at

I’d like to see that Samuel. Let loose brother!

Appreciate very much your comments man and hope you have a great Santa day as well. :-)

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Jk Hustle December 24, 2010 at

Marcus,
First off, thanks for the props and for pointing out areas that we can all learn from. Personally, as you know from our direct communication, I’ve taken it to heart in the most fabulous way. It’s amazing how when you seek – you find. I’ve been seeking that part of me that will excel in 2011. Wrapped with a few others magnified areas – this post and your last one will carry me to new heights.

I’m thankful for your courage in speaking on what you’ve noticed as a major governing limitation within my own efforts. It’s times like these when we should act to excel, or simply live within mediocrity. I mention courage because many folks would allow their thoughts to stay within, in the even that they may offend someone. What you did, is take that chance – and benefited another (me and everyone else who takes from this). So I applaud and appreciate your brave-sincere spirit because of it – a new spark in me has been lit.

With that said, expect to see a newer, fresher, maturer me in 2011. Expect to learn more about me, my experiences, why I’m ‘the’ hustler, why I never give up, about my kids, my wife, why I love my life and want to be of value to people.

What timing – 8 days and it’s on!

Peace,
and of course Merry Christmas!
.-= Jk Hustle´s last blog ..The Impact of Credibility =-.

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Marcus Sheridan December 24, 2010 at

JK my friend. Wow man. What can I say? Over these last couple of days, I’ve really learned about a side of you that I didn’t know before, but strongly expected– You have one of the strongest abilities to listen, ponder, and adjust as any dude I’ve ever met. I’m being serious about that man. The email you sent me yesterday had me thinking all day.

I very much can’t wait to see JK 2.0 in 2011. It’s going to be awesome. You’re going places JK, and I’m glad I can be there to watch it all happen.

Much love my friend.

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Crystal December 24, 2010 at

You’re right about the photos, Marcus – I checked out your family and showed the pics to my hubby, as well. (Your kids are really cute, btw.) Am I some kind weirdo without a life of my own? No. I’m the mother of four and the granny of ten and absolutely love seeing happy, young families just being families.

It wasn’t really “in” to want to stay home and raise kids when I was doing it. There was a lot of talk about needing a second income to survive, being bored or unfulfilled at home (Are you kidding me? How can anyone be bored around kids?), blah, blah, blah. Comments like “must be nice not having to work” were common. It’s refreshing that there seems to be a shift in mentality and many young parents actually want to raise their own kids rather than pay someone else to do it:)

After reading this post, I realize my blog is short on photos about me. When I started blogging, I figured no one really cared who I am but have come to realize over time that some do. So after the holidays, I’ll gussy up my About page (correction – I’ll make an actual About page) with photos.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

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Marcus Sheridan December 24, 2010 at

Well thank you Crystal for the kind words regarding me kids, I tried hard ;-)

Props to you for loving family and motherhood and all that ‘you’ are. I look forward to more photos of you and the rest of the gang in 2011.

Thanks so much for the comment and have a wonderful holiday!

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leon Noone December 24, 2010 at

G’Day Marcus,
So I’m sitting here saying to myself “I’ll go easy on comments on that Sales Lion blog.” until 2011. Doanwanna overdo it.”

Then along you come again with the apple of temptation and I can’t resist just a little “sin.”

I reckon that the danger in telling stories is that you start getting too serious, too intense. I remember telling a group of trainers at a conference “What you do is very important. But don’t confuse who you are with what you do.”

As I said earlier, just write. It’s said that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the first paragraph of “Kidnapped” 71 times: not the first chapter, not the first page; the first paragraph!

You see, he knew that while the stuff stayed in his head, he was thinking not writing.Ya gotta write to be a writer. Wasn’t it Red Auerbach who said”Nothing is so important as the proper execution of the Fundamentals.”

Get your story down on paper. Then set to and make it readable. And don’t succumb to too many apples of temptation offered by golden tongued hole-diggers masquerading as swimming pool builders.

And Whacko the Chook for Christmas and 2011

Avagoodweegend!

Leon

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Marcus Sheridan December 24, 2010 at

Leon, I’m SO glad you decided to break your little promise and bring smiles and your witty wisdom nuggets to us again. BTW, you could NEVER over-do it here my friend :-)

‘Just write’ is wonderful advice. It really is. I would just add the thought–

‘Look at your life, what has it taught you?….now write about that’.

Enjoy Christmas out there in the Australian summertime my friend. :-)

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Danielle December 24, 2010 at

not bad not bad at all hahahah love you dad
Dj

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Marcus Sheridan December 24, 2010 at

You’re a goof ball ;-) …Love you too.

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Dia December 24, 2010 at

Hi Marcus,

Very nice post my friend! Personally, I have seen many successful blogs that do share stories, but not necessarly about themselves. Some seldom do it. I agree that there is a benefit in telling our stories and experiences, so others can learn more about us and learn from our experiences. I think it is a great way also to build connection with our readers.

I was actually contemplating to tell my own story in a post a few days ago, so I can inspire others and tell them that dreams and goals do come true, but I’m still hesitant for some reason. Thanks for sharing my friend :)
.-= Dia´s last blog ..How to be happy in life =-.

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Marcus Sheridan December 26, 2010 at

Dia, Dia, Dia….share it brother!! C’mon man, open the heck up and tell us the story behind the man! I know that I, for one, would LOVE to hear it.

Thanks for stopping by boss.

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Julie Weishaar December 25, 2010 at

Marcus, now I know why you liked my blog – we think along the same lines. I always write like I talk, I am very open – sometimes too open perhaps LOL and I agree with you 100% that it is all about relationships. Being open, transparent, real – is the only way to have real relationships. But you are way ahead of me – my daughters don’t read my blog :)
.-= Julie Weishaar´s last blog ..Romeo &amp Juliet =-.

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Marcus Sheridan December 26, 2010 at

Ha, my daughter just started reading about a month ago, so there’s still hope Julie ;-)

Yes, you’re right, we do have a similar style, which does explain why I enjoy your blog.

Thanks for stopping by and I’m sure we’ll be chatting more down the road.

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Julie Weishaar December 26, 2010 at

Hi Marcus,

I did notice the slight age difference in our children :) Looking forward to more “chatting” :)
.-= Julie Weishaar´s last blog ..Romeo &amp Juliet =-.

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Christina Crowe January 7, 2011 at

Hey Marcus,

I can’t believe I missed this post! Thanks a ton for the mention. :)

I believe that by opening up to your readers, you not only connect with them deeper than you were able to before, but you also make their experience on your blog more memorable.

You’re right – stories do get remembered. I still remember the story you told us about how you “rejected a rejection letter.” Not only did that story make me laugh, but it also helped me learn more about your character and the type of person you really are.

Nicely written, and I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

Christina
.-= Christina Crowe´s last blog ..6 Questions- 6 Answers – Happy New Year! =-.

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Marcus Sheridan January 7, 2011 at

How could I not mention one of my best blogging buddies ;-)

Always appreciate you and your thoughts Christina.

(and I’m still waiting for a photo of your frogs ;-) )

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Christina Crowe January 7, 2011 at

Lol, I’m working on it! ;)

I’ll post some up by next week. =p

Christina
.-= Christina Crowe´s last blog ..6 Questions- 6 Answers – Happy New Year! =-.

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Dorit Sasson August 26, 2012 at

Hello Marcus, I’m so glad I remembered to bookmark this post (even though the holidays is long befor us) because now that I have deepened my work with helping others give voice to their Stories, I can see how our own vulnerability is truly an asset and reshapes our own humanity. One of the greatest gifts in sharing yourself and your story is that you also allow for others to see themselves in your Story. You create a safe place for expression. Our vulnearbility creates safety. I’m so glad to see that the genre of personal story sharing and telling is getting attention and thank you for getting the word of this important topic up.
Blessings,
Dorit Sasson
http://www.GivingVoicetoVoicelessBook.
Creator of the homestudy and group coaching program: “Giving Voice to Voiceless: A 5 Step Program to Transforming Your Life and Business in Story!”

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